High Flyin' Flagg
or: Magic Elf Paper
This weeks grab Bag yield's Howard Chaykin's American Flagg. #15, Canadian Sunset to be exact. Flagg and Baron & Rude's Nexus, were the big attractions at First Comics out of Chicago.
Howard was the guy that made me go back and really research Alex Toth so I'll always love him for that; no matter how he insults my jacket du jour.
A huge part of Flagg's look came from the markers and tones Howard used. Believe it or not, I couldn't find a single thin line marker in the house… d'oh! Big old fat ones but nothing suitable for drawing. I did what I could to fake it with a brush. The tone work is homemade "zip-a-tone" from a photo of the studio ceiling.
Now in the book itself, tones were accomplished with a magical paper known as Craft-Tint from those wonderful people at Ohio Graphic Arts who brought us the Etch-a-Sketch. Paper was pre-printed in non-photo blue with various tone patterns (there was also Duo-Tone board that contained, you guessed it, two tones. Woo hoo!) Applying a special clear fluid with your brush, would cause the tone to turn black. It was like magic in a bottle. You felt like a Christmas Elf painting chessboards with a single swipe of your brush. Fun stuff.
Apropos of nothing, once upon a time I was playing Easy Rider across the plains. I had a standing invite from Rick Obidiah (First's Publisher) should the bike wander out Chicago way. I drop in, introduce myself at the desk and the gal says Rick's down the hall. Sprawed across hall is a dog the size of a small horse. He growls a bit as I approach. Not angry, more confused. I tell him to stop being silly and keep walking. He sits up and lets me by.
I poke my head in the first door and ask for Rick. The fellow at the desk (Ralph Musicant, First's money guy) asks how I got back here. uhh…. the hallway? Where's the dog? He's right here. He let you by? Uhh, he growled a little bit. The dog sheepishly slips by me into the office. He and Ralph look at each other. Ralph says if the dog's not going to stop me, come on in, Rick will be back in a minute.
Later that night Rick, Ralph and I are shooting pool. None of us are particularly good. For some reason we start calling shots… and making them! We call trickier shots… and make them. I call a ridiculous 3-4 ball combo "off the side cushion"… and I make it! And that's how I got my Chicago nickname of Side Cushion Smitty.
Ladies and gents, American Flagg!
Side Cushion Smitty